Highlights of VA’s 2015 budget

On March 4, President Barack Obama released a federal budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) fiscal year 2015. As part of the proposal, VA would receive nearly $164 billion in funding. Below are highlights of the budget proposal.

Medical care funding:

  • $7.2 billion to expand inpatient, residential and outpatient mental health care.
  • $7 billion to expand institutional/non-institutional long-term health care.
  • $4.2 billion to meet the needs of more 757,000 veterans returning from U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • $589 million for medical and prosthetics research.
  • $567 million for VA telehealth programs to help improve access to VA health care.
  • $403 million for VA services addressing the specific health-care needs of women veterans.

Overall, veterans medical care accounts would be funded at $56 billion in the upcoming year. This total will be $1.8 billion more than FY 2014 funding amounts. In addition, the president’s proposal would provide advance appropriations for FY 2016 totaling $58.7 billion.

Other funding:

  • $3.9 billion for information technology, which directly impacts direct delivery of medical care benefits.
  • $2.5 billion for more efficient benefits claims processing through technological enhancements, improved business processes and staff training.
  • $1.6 billion for VA’s integrated plan to end veteran homelessness in 2015, including 500 million for the Supportive Services for Veterans Families program.
  • $1.2 billion for VA construction, as well as construction grants for state cemeteries and state veterans homes.
  • $1 billion over the next five years to fund a veterans job corps program that would put thousands of veterans back to work.
  • $257 million for national cemetery administration operations and maintenance. This funding will also go toward initial operations of two new national cemeteries in Florida.
  • $106 million to help servicemembers transition to civilian life.

The next step is for both the House and Senate appropriations committees to examine the president’s budget, make their own funding recommendations, and develop spending measures to meet the particular needs of the government programs. Once both congressional chambers pass these spending measures, it will be signed into law by President Obama. VA’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2014.

The following are several pending bills that The American Legion supports:

  • Veterans Access to Speedy Review Act (H.R. 2119) would improve opportunities for veterans to use video conferencing for hearings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
  • Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (H.R. 4191) would improve the way in which private-sector medical evidence submitted by veterans is handled within the VA claims system.
  • Honor Those Who Served Act (H.R. 2018) identifies persons who are eligible to request headstones or markers furnished by VA.
  • Burial with Dignity for Heroes Act (H.R. 3876) directs VA to carry out a grant program to provide burials for homeless veterans.
  • Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act (H.R. 4095) increases rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities, and rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans. While the Legion supports this bill, it would like to see it amended to ensure that the Chained Consumer Price Index model would not be used since it would reduce the rates of increase.